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>> Today’s Lesson, or, tl;dr: If a bird strikes your window, it’s probably* in trouble. Help if you can. <<

A bird hit my window today. The thunk echoed through the house and into my office, and of course I went to investigate. Two juncos scattered as I approached the back door, but a third wasn’t going anywhere. It lay on its side on top of a big plastic storage bin that holds bird seed and miscellaneous gardening equipment. It’s not the kind of place a bird normally hangs out. Too exposed. Smells too much like cat. But there it was, tilted over on one side and twitching.

I waited, because this has happened before. Sometimes they fly away.

Ten minutes later, the bird was still there, but it had rolled over to perch on a coil of garden hose tucked behind the bin. I propped one half of a shoe box on the bin to keep it from looking too much like dinner to some passing hawk, hoped the cat stayed asleep, and did some research.

We have some wonderful bird organizations in Ottawa.** The Wild Bird Care Centre rescues all kinds of birds and also has a lot of useful information online. Pick it up, they said. Put it in a bag or a box and bring it in, it probably needs help. Won’t cost you a thing, we’re just that awesome (and they are!)

Bonus: birds can be adorable!

We’ve had bird strikes before and while a couple picked themselves up and went on their way, one most decidedly did not. It was a mourning dove, a beautiful grey bird that decided the yard looked like a fine spot to lie down in, and that was that. We picked it up and took it to the Wild Bird Centre. Later, they reported that it had a broken wing and pelvis so, yeah, not walking away from that one any time soon. (It took months, but the Bird Centre rehabbed it and released it back into the wild with a flock of its fellow doves. How great is that?)

Remembering that dove and flush with new information, I called Safe Wings Ottawa.

“The Centre’s closed for the night but bring the bird to me and I’ll care for it,” said the nice woman at the other end of the line. “It probably needs help. But be quick, flying away doesn’t mean it’s ok.”

I thanked her, grabbed the other half of the shoe box and headed back outside.

The bird flew away.

I called the nice lady back. She was polite but perhaps just a wee bit exasperated when I said, “You know how I called about that little junco? Yeah, it woke up and flew away.” She must hear that a lot.

But next time, she won’t hear it from me.

* * *

Looking for information and/or window stickers to prevent bird strikes? Here, I’ll save you the trouble:
Prevent birds from hitting windows with these products — BirdWatching

I got some of the UV reflective stickers and they seem ok but not great. We still had a strike after I put those up. After that I went old school, and also use gold star stickers that I picked up from a craft or dollar store. They aren’t great for outdoors but will last the season if in a relatively protected place.

Figure out which windows are problematic (do they reflect the great outdoors? the answer may change depending on the season; does interior light make it look like there’s a passage through the house?) and stick away!

* * *

* I’m just guessing here, but if it knocks itself out I’d say definitely in trouble.
** Most relevant today: the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, a charitable organization whose mission is to “assess, treat, and rehabilitate injured, ill, or orphaned wild birds,” and Safe Wings Ottawa, a “program of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club to reduce bird mortality from window collisions.” If you aren’t in this neck of the woods but need help with a bird, OVWBCC recommends you visit www.wildliferehabber.com or call your local vet.

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Politics make me sad.

Baking makes me happy. Being constructive and making things (and countering the negativity inherent in the current public discourse) makes me happy.

And so I give you my latest creation: A rolling pin…

… complete with a flower on the handle. (Or is that a “flour”? 😉

Next stop, Canadian Thanksgiving and (you guessed it!) pie.

Chin up, fellow humans. We’re just one alien invasion away from remembering that we’re all in this together.

 

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We planted Joe Pye Weed this year, and look what stopped by!

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(today I bring you a dispatch from the wilds of suburbia)

I just mowed the front lawn. I hate mowing. We have an electric mower that’s great, it’s a small yard, no big deal, but it is not my cup of tea.

English estates popularized lawns, but it took America to democratize the things. I’ll cite a few lines from a nineteenth-century book based on Frederick Law Olmsted‘s work (via this excellent article by Michael Pollan), but the real push for lawns started in the 1950s.

“Let your lawn be your home’s velvet robe, and your flowers its not too promiscuous decoration… A smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban house.”
— “The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds,” Frank J. Scott (1870)

Pretty? Sure, if you like uniformity. But in terms of land use, water use, and pesticide chemical use, lawns are terrible for the environment. They are also a massive time suck. Don’t get me wrong, I love Olmsted’s take on keeping nature in cities and improving society through physical design, etc. But there has to be a better way.

We planted a clover-grass mix (yes, on purpose:), but by the time the clover is tall enough to flower, the grass is twice as high and seeding. The neighbors have beautiful, chemically-induced perfections of green. They look askance at our “grass plus” mix, and at the way we wave the weed control van on when it comes around.

And so to keep the peace, I mow. Even when the clover is flowering and the bees are buzzing and can’t understand why I would take away their glorious buffet. I’m not sure why either. I ask the bees for understanding, and I mow in slow motion to give them time to leave the all-you-can-eat-restaurant-turned-food-desert and under my breath I’m asking myself “What’s the flipping point?” I mutter it as I mow the clover, the edible wood sorrel and lamb’s quarters, and the wild strawberries that spring up under the bushes.

Except I don’t say “flipping.”

We’re still looking for ways to shift our lawn to something more useful, but it’s a process. Want to save time, money, and the planet? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The back yard doesn’t get as much sun, and only patches of clover flower there. I let them grow anyway.

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Today is officially the first snow-free day for the front yard! Here’s a last shot from yesterday:

Say goodbye!

In other news, my recent bird post must be getting some seriously wide distribution, because a turkey decided to stop by to boost my spirits. This is officially the worst photo ever, but that dark blob up in the tree is a Meleagris gallopavo!

The cat was not amused;)

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My bird feeder is half full.

It’s an extra large “squirrel proof” version that almost lives up to its name. It’s tall and has a red metal cap and four weight-sensitive perches designed to give smaller birds a chance against the jays and cardinals and squirrels in the neighborhood, and mostly it works. Watching birds come into the yard is fun and satisfying for both humans and felines. Except that there’s a lot less to watch these days.

I haven’t refilled the feeder since last year. And it’s still half full. Where are the birds?

I’ve been wondering this every time Mr. Man and I are out and about. We live in an established suburb and when we first moved into our house the yard hosted raccoons and rabbits and groundhogs and once, a fluffy orange fox. Now only the squirrels and a few birds remain. The city is going through a burst of expansion, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the decline in surrounding farmland is taking a toll on the wildlife. Still, this shift feels new.

* * *

A New York Times article* brought this to a head for me. It’s not the first report I’ve seen on the topic, unfortunately, but we do (with apologies to The Day After Tomorrow) appear to be reaching a critical de-avian-ization point. Agricultural practices in particular have done a number on the insect population. Is it any surprise that birds will follow?

Insects and birds are all part of that delightful staple of elementary school classrooms, the food web. The next obvious questions are, “What’s next?” and “How long until it affects us?”

Public policy is one way to improve the situation. For example, the Farm Bill helps preserve habitat on private lands and provides an often much-needed economic buffer for farmers and other land owners. Don’t have acreage at your disposal? You can still make a difference by creating bird-friendly (and pollinator-friendly) yards.

But before we can make a better world, we need to envision that world.

* * *

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
― J.K. Rowling

One of the best things about speculative fiction is that it allows us to test drive ideas, to spin them into the future, to weigh the potential positives and negatives without actually having to live through that AI or medical or environmental apocalypse.

It reminds me of something I said to a friend facing a life-changing decision: “Whatever you decide, do it on purpose.”

* * *

“We are our choices.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre

Some of the most terrifying words in the English language are “unintended consequences.” Fiction, particularly of the speculative variety, can help steer us through those dangerous waters, between Scylla and Charybdis.

Have a goal, consider the consequences. Then act on purpose.

Making sure that we aren’t on the list of species in decline by protecting the species around us? That seems like a terrific goal.

And maybe next year I’ll have to refill my bird feeder more often.

. . . . .
* tl;dr: Bird populations in France are experiencing “precipitous declines in agricultural regions, even among common birds well adapted to human activity” and scientists point to “the loss of insects, the major food source for many birds, as a likely result of pesticide use.” And before American and Canadian readers breathe a sigh of relief, “A report two years ago said that the problems for about a third of North American birds were urgent.” Ruh-ro!

 

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I’m getting back to a more regular writing schedule after this summer (ok, year) of nuttiness, but that’s not all I’m doing. Last week’s project was to make a fleece shawl.


The shawl works as a wrap, blanket or pillow. It’s reversible, washable and nigh-on indestructible. It’s good for foggy mornings or chilly hospital rooms. It also has custom embroidery with what could be the motto for this crazy year. I made it for my aunt, a wonderful, free-wheeling, tough-as-nails woman who carved her own path to San Francisco decades ago and never left.

In related news, cancer sucks.

!

SaveSave

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white snow on rooftops
red tulips on southern slopes
oh, #MyCanada

❄️

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Always.

Self-portrait as Stormtrooper

Today’s quote: “We’re more complex than you think.

Open the blast doors! Open the blast doors!

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The eyes say it all, I think.

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